The NFL reinstated Saints coach Sean Payton Tuesday, 10 months after commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for the 2012 season in connection with a bounty program the league said rewarded Saints players for injuring opponents.
The ruling came 12 days before the Super Bowl in New Orleans, where fans have been livid about the suspensions of Payton and others in the Saints' organization.
Goodell decided to reinstate Payton after they met for more than four hours Monday at Goodell's office in New York. Payton acknowledged in a statement that "mistakes were made" and accepted "full responsibility for all aspects of our program."
"We had a very productive discussion," Goodell said in a statement. "Sean fully complied with all the requirements imposed on him during his suspension.''
Payton admitted to wrongdoing in connection with the probe. Payton recently agreed to a contract through the 2017 season that is worth more than $8 million a year.
Four players -- Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove -- also were suspended, but former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue eventually overturned their punishments. Saints assistant coach Joe Vitt was suspended for six games and general manager Mickey Loomis for eight. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely.
"I am thankful today commissioner Goodell has granted me reinstatement," Payton said. "As I stated back in March, I, along with Mickey Loomis, take full responsibility . . . I clearly recognize mistakes were made, which led to league violations.
"Furthermore, I have assured the commissioner a more diligent protocol will be followed.''